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Death
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On the ground floor of the Museum, close to the displays of monumental Egyptian sculpture, Assyrian winged bulls and the Parthenon marbles, is a smaller, quieter gallery, containing sculptures from one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Mausoleum of Halikarnassos is a huge stone monument, 45m. tall, built 2300 years ago in Halikarnassos (modern Bodrum in Turkey). It housed the tomb of Maussolos, ruler of Halikarnassos, and was also a very visible memorial to his life and achievements. For many centuries after his death, this great building reminded all who saw it of the life and fame of its namesake. Only fragments now survive of this ancient wonder and the sculptures that originally decorated it, although Maussollos himself has achieved a form of immortality through the word mausoleum, originally used to describe his monumental tomb.

Death


Outer coffin of Henutmehyt.


Throughout the Museum are examples of the desire, common to many human societies, to commemorate the dead in the hope that the memory of their lives will endure beyond their deaths, although few have possessed the power or wealth to create such massive, long-lasting monuments as that of Maussollos. This desire has led to the creation of images immortalizing how the dead person looked (or, as the tomb relief of Seianti in this chapter demonstrates, how they ideally looked). In fact, as the tombstone from Cairo shows, the simplicity of words alone can also act as a powerful memorial.

While the fragments from the Mausoleum are a poignant example of how people have created objects and monuments to keep the memory of the dead alive for the living, many other objects across the Museum were created to help the dead in their new 'lives' after death. This is certainly true of Egyptian mummy cases and coffins, and of the objects placed with them in their tombs and graves. Among the most popular objects in the Museum are the mummy cases like that of Henutmehyt, which were made not just to contain the mummified body of the dead person but to act as a substitute body if their mummy perished. Burials from other societies and cultures also often contained goods for the dead to use in the afterlife. These include such famous objects as the Sutton Hoo helmet, part of a burial that also contains items to enable the inhabitant to host a lavish feast after death - a common feature of many burial customs in pre-Christian Europe.

Other objects found in burials are more enigmatic: we know that the jade bi and cong made by early Neolithic farming societies in China required great skill and much time, but their function and meanings are now lost to us. This is also true of the Folkton drums, created in England at about the same time as the Chinese jades and also placed in a grave.

Death


Folkton drum




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